Holidays Can Be a Pain in the Back

Sea­son­al activ­i­ties that can con­tribute to back pain and how to avoid them

The hol­i­day sea­son can bring fun times with fam­i­ly and friends – but cer­tain fes­tiv­i­ties can bring back and spine pain as well. This win­ter, be aware of these poten­tial pain trig­gers so you can avoid back dis­com­fort and enjoy your­self through­out the season.


Hol­i­day shop­ping can be fun, but the real­i­ty is that you may spend much of your time stand­ing in long lines or car­ry­ing heavy or over­sized bags and pack­ages. This can put strain and stress on your spine, back, legs and feet caus­ing pain or aggra­vat­ing exist­ing injuries and con­di­tions. Alle­vi­ate these strains by tak­ing reg­u­lar breaks to sit and rest while brows­ing the stores. Be sure to lift items with prop­er tech­nique by bend­ing at the hips and knees, keep­ing your back per­pen­dic­u­lar to the ground and lift­ing with your legs. Don’t hes­i­tate to ask for help car­ry­ing or load­ing items if you feel you need it! 


Many of us trav­el dur­ing this time of year to see friends and fam­i­ly. Neck and back pain can inten­si­fy when trav­el­ing, espe­cial­ly long dis­tances, due to extend­ed seden­tary sit­ting posi­tions, lack of lum­bar sup­port and han­dling of heavy lug­gage. You can make lug­gage han­dling much eas­i­er by pack­ing light, using wheeled lug­gage, lift­ing lug­gage with your legs rather than your back and ask­ing for help, if need­ed, to put your belong­ings in over­head bins or the trunk of your car.

While trav­el­ing, be aware of your pos­ture and adjust your seat to pro­vide you with opti­mum support:

  • Keep feet flat on the floor.
  • Check the curve of your low­er back to make sure it’s get­ting lum­bar sup­port from your seat. You may want to trav­el with a small pil­low if you need addi­tion­al support.
  • Align your ears over your shoul­ders and keep from hunch­ing your back.
  • Head­rests should sup­port the mid­dle of your head and should not push your head forward.

It also helps to take breaks to get up, stretch and move around so you aren’t expe­ri­enc­ing back pain once you arrive at your destination.

Overnight Accom­mo­da­tions

Wak­ing up to back pain isn’t a great way to start your day – but can hap­pen when you’re stay­ing overnight away from home. With some advance prepa­ra­tion and calls, you can plan your stay so that you’re com­fort­able and hope­ful­ly free from back pain. If you have the abil­i­ty to choose, select a medi­um to firm mat­tress that does not sag. If the mat­tress is very soft, avoid sleep­ing on your abdomen. If you already have back pain, avoid sofa beds if possible. 

Hol­i­day Foods

Every­one has a favorite hol­i­day food or treat and many times we indulge at par­ties and get-togeth­ers. You might think gain­ing a pound or two can’t hurt too much but the real­i­ty is that we often gain more weight than we real­ize and that weight can be hard to lose – putting addi­tion­al stress on your back and spine. The good news is you can still enjoy your favorite tra­di­tions and treats – just be mind­ful of how much you’re eat­ing and incor­po­rate some exer­cise to off­set any extra calo­ries you may consume.


Bright lights and col­or­ful dec­o­ra­tions look great, but you may want to ask for help putting up the tree this year if you’ve got back pain. Haul­ing a tree, tak­ing down box­es from the attic and string­ing lights on the roof are easy ways to injure your­self as they require move­ments that put added strain on your spine and back. 

Win­ter weather

Snow, ice, rain and sleet are all part of liv­ing in Chicagoland in the win­ter, but it can be a lit­er­al pain in the back. Be sure to wear the prop­er footwear in inclement weath­er and look for icy or wet spots on pave­ment, side­walks and floors to avoid slip­ping or twist­ing your back. When shov­el­ing snow, be sure to lift with your legs, not your arms or back and use a snow blow­er or ergonom­ic snow shov­el with a curved han­dle. Drink­ing plen­ty of flu­ids, dress­ing warm­ly and stretch­ing can help pre­vent injury too. Even bet­ter – hire a ser­vice or neigh­bor to do the heavy lift­ing for you!

Fol­low­ing these tips can help you avoid back stress and pain so you can enjoy the sea­son ful­ly. If you do hurt your back and need some relief this hol­i­day sea­son, sched­ule an appoint­ment with a Duly orthopaedic provider today.

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  • Michael Conti Mica, MD, Elmhurst Spine Surgeon

    I strive to provide the right treatment options for each individual patient. Developing personalized care centered around each patient's goals, aligned with outcome-driven, evidence-based medicine is fundamental to my philosophy. My goal is to reduce your pain and improve your function so that you may focus on living your life rather than managing your condition. Fortunately, most neck and back related problems can be resolved with non-surgical care. Our integrated team will guide your treatment and efficiently coordinate your care. If surgery is necessary, I am trained in both cutting-edge open and minimally invasive techniques for the treatment of various spine conditions. I specialize in the treatment of degenerative and traumatic spine conditions with particular interest in minimally invasive, motion preserving, and robotic-assisted spine surgery. Whether your goal is to return to professional sport or lifting your grandchild, I will treat you with compassionate diligence.